Ideals and Values/Peacefulness (Śanti)
28.1 What is Śānti
Peacefulness means that we should avoid conflicts and should not be quarrelsome. Whenever a dispute arises, we should try to resolve it. It also means being calm and composed at all times, speaking softly, acting gently and not creating conflicts between different people. There are three types of Śanti. We Hindus often end our prayers with triple repetition of the word Śanti, i.e. Om Śanti Śanti Śanti. The repetition of the word Śanti denotes pacification of the three types of dangers or sorrows that can afflict us:
- Adhidaivika: Sorrows from natural calamities e.g. earthquake, famine, flood.
- Adhibhautika: Sorrows from other creatures like snake bite or an attack by an enemy army.
- Ādhyātmika: Sorrows due to our mental or physical diseases like fever, epilepsy or due to our spiritual ignorance that can cause feelings of delusion. etc.
A truly peaceful person is free from all these three types of afflictions.
28.2 Why should we practice Peacefulness
Adhering to the principle of peacefulness prevents needless hatreds, bloodshed and violence. We must try to avoid conflicts from starting in the first place and nip any potential causes of conflict right in the bud because even if peace is re-established after a conflict, memories of prior conflict do remain in our minds. Which is why a Sage says- "A creeper that has been cut can be made to grow again, but it will never look as beautiful as it used to. Similarly, an affectionate relationship that has been spoilt can be revived again, but it will not have the same charm as it used to."
28.3 The Four Steps of Conflict Resolution
Conflicts are inevitable in real life and we must solve them. To promote peace, Hindu scriptures say that we should follow these four steps to address our disputes so that we do not have too much violence in our world. There are four ways that should be adopted one after the other in successive order to get the things done:
- Sāma: Counseling, appealing to reason and rationale.
- Dāna: Offer sops, or forgive, or let go.
- Bheda: Threats of bad consequences if the opponent does not concede or mend his ways.
- Danda: Punishment through violence or other means.
The initial means are preferable to later ones but all the four are legitimate for the king. Arthaśāstra of Kautilya When all efforts to obtain justice and save oneself from oppression fail and no other recourse is left, it is justified to lift the sword and fight.
Story: Example of how Kṛṣṇa followed the four step process to aim for Śanti
In the Mahābhārata, we see very clearly how Kṛṣṇa followed the four fold process to aim for peace when it became clear that a war would break out between the Kauravas and the Pāndavas when the former refused to return the kingdom of Pāndavas to them. When the Pāndavas lost the gambling match to the Kauravas, they had to surrender their kingdom to the latter and go to the forest for 13 years. The agreement was that after 13 years, the Kauravas would return the kingdom of Pāndavas to them. But, when the time came, Duryodhana refused to honor the agreement and said that he will not return their kingdom.
A war was inevitable, but Yudhishthira, the eldest Pāndava did not want any bloodshed. Therefore, at the advice of Kṛṣṇa, they sent Sanjaya as their ambassador with the proposal of peace. Sanjaya explained to Duryodhana how the Pāndavas had fulfilled all their conditions of the 13 year long exile and therefore deserved to get their kingdom back. But Duryodhana refused and said that he does not fear a war with the Pāndavas. The elders of Duryodhana's court suggested to Duryodhana that he should meet Kṛṣṇa and get his advice on the correct course of action. But out of pride, Duryodhana refused. When Kṛṣṇa heard this, He decided to go to see Duryodhana with a peace proposal.
He again argued that the Pāndavas deserved to get their kingdom back. But when Duryodhana was adamant, he asked the elders in Duryodhana's court to put some sense into Duryodhana's head. But Duryodhana refused to listen even to his own mother Gāndhāri. Kṛṣṇa then even proposed that instead of returning the entire kingdom, he could just return the capital Indraprastha and five villages to the Pāndavas, but Duryodhana arrogantly responded, I will not give even that much land to them which can balance on the tip of a needle.
At this, Kṛṣṇa clearly threatened war and warned Duryodhana that the blame for all the ensuing bloodshed will fall on Duryodhana. The latter became very angry and he ordered Kṛṣṇa to be arrested and imprisoned. But Kṛṣṇa showed his Divine Form that was so full of light and brilliance that even Dhṛtrashtra had to cover his eyes to stop the glare. Now, all the elders in Duryodhana's court were scared of Kṛṣṇa's wrath and they reasoned with him again to heed to Kṛṣṇa's advice, compromise and threat. But Duryodhana merely dismissed Kṛṣṇa as a cheap trickster.
Kṛṣṇa then went back to the Pāndavas and exhorted them to prepare for war. At the battlefield, Arjuna suddenly became overcome by pacifist thoughts and said that he did not want to cause any bloodshed. But Kṛṣṇa taught him the Bhagavad Gitā and inspired him to fight the righteous war. Throughout the 18 days of war, Kṛṣṇa guided the Pāndavas and led them to a victory over the Kauravas. This example shows how Kṛṣṇa tried his utmost to prevent a war for the sake of Śānti, but when the first three steps of conflict resolution failed, he directed Pāndavas to punish the Kauravas through a war.
28.4 Legitimate Targets of Violence
When should one reject the Four Step Process for Resolving Conflicts. In general, Ahiṅsā is an over-arching principle that should govern our entire life. But practicing Ahiṅsā does not mean that all violence is bad. There are some cases where we should indulge in violence immediately without waiting for any discussion, concession or threatening.
Bheeshma said "He who is thoroughly evil is in fact already killed by his evil actions. The killer of a very evil person does not commit any sin. Any human being can therefore resolve to kill evil doers who have lost their sense of intellect completely." As per the Sage Vasishta's Code of Dharma these are the following people or circumstance under which one should not think befor attacking:
- The terrorists
- One who sets fire
- One who poisons
- One who is ready to kill with a drawn weapon
- One who takes money by force
- One who kidnaps a woman
As per Sage Manu's Code of Dharma, one who kills a terrorist overtly or covertly is not to be blamed, because such an act is merely extinguishing anger with anger. One's Guru, a scholarly Brahmana, a child or an elder even if these are terrorists, they must be killed immediately without second thought.
Note that in all these above mentioned cases, Hindu tradition allows us to directly resort to violence without following the first three steps of conflict resolution. Some other cases where Hindu scriptures permit violence are:
- In a war to defend one's country or a war to defeat evil forces.
- To kill terrorists who indulge in mass slaughter, setting homes of others afire, poison public sources of water etc., create enmity between different sections of the society, abuse women, kill children etc.
- Some violence is inevitable for preparing our own food even if we are vegetarians.
- In self-defense against a violent attack.
- Killing venomous and violent creatures or bugs for expanding agriculture etc. E.g. snakes, locusts, rats.
28.5 Non-Legitimate Targets of Violence:
Even when we are engaged in warfare, there are certain people whom we must never harm. In fact, the ethics of warfare in Hindu Dharma were very much ahead of their times and the modern humane rules of war are very consistent with what Hindu scriptures taught several thousand years back!
When a warrior fights with his foes in battle, he should have the following things in his mind:
- Not strike with weapons concealed in wood
- Not attack with barbed, poisoned or the points of which are blazing with fire
- Not strike with the one who has climbed on a structure of height
- Not fight with a eunuch or the one who joins the palms of his hands in supplication
- Not fight with the one who flees with flying hair or who sits down
- Not attack anybody who says 'I am thine'
- Not fight with the one who sleeps
- Not attack the one who has lost his coat of mail
- Not attack the one who is naked
- Not attack the one who is disarmed
- Not attack the one who looks on without taking part in the fight
- Not attack the one who is fighting with another foe
- Not fight with the one whose weapons are broken or the one afflicted with sorrow or grievously wounded
- Not fight with the one who is in fear
In all the above mentioned cases let him remember the duty of honorable warriors.
28.6 The Correct Attitude for Fighting
Violence involves a lot of hatred, aggression and bloodshed. But Hindu scriptures constantly teaches us that we should fight only for a higher cause, to defend Dharma and the weak and not for any selfish motives. When we fight for personal gain, the war involves a lot of bad karma but when we fight for principles, then Bhagavān forgives us for the violence that we have to inflict.
Considering your duty as a warrior, understand that there is no better fortune than fighting for the sake of Dharma. There is no greater duty for a warrior. Lucky are those warriors for whom such opportunities appear, opening the very gates of heaven for them. You should fight a righteous war because it is your duty and without regard for personal happiness or sorrow, loss or gain, victory or defeat, if you fight with this attitude, then you will never incur sin. Therefore, remember Me in your heart at all times and fight.
28.7 The Glory of a Soldier
Compared to Islam and Christianity, Hindu Dharma is a very tolerant and a peaceful religion that does not advocate warfare to promote one's religion. This does not mean that Hindus look down upon the very profession of soldiers. In fact, Hindu scriptures remind us that war is a higher calling in which human beings out their very lives at risk to defend their country, their families, their principles etc. In fact a war fought for higher principles is the most unselfish sacrifice that one can make because a dead soldier is no longer present to enjoy the victory of his army. Therefore, Hindu scriptures glorify the profession of a soldier in the following words:
"The glory of only two types of people exceeds the splendor of the sun, the ascetic who is steadfast in Yoga and the soldier who courts death while fighting bravely in the battlefield." "The Heaven that the Brahmanas seek through the performance of several austerities and religious ceremonies is attained in a moment by a warrior who loses his life in the battlefield."
It should be kept in mind that Rāma, Kṛṣṇa, Durga and most of our Devis and Devatas carry different kinds of weapons in their hands. They are not war-mongering, but they are ever ready to fight violent Asuras for the sake of the Universe.
Story: General Hari Singh Nalwa thrashes the Pathāns
Peacefulness does not always solve all our problems. Those who desire peace should also be willing to lift arms. The following story from the history of India is very instructive in this regard.
Hari Singh Nalwa, the great Sikh commander in the army of Mahārāja Ranjit Singh, was once in Kashmir in northern India. He got a message from the Mahārāja saying,"The Pathāns have started gathering their forces at Attock on our western borders. Go and defeat them before they threaten our entire country? Hari Singh Nalwa immediately gathered his troops in Kashmir and started marching westwards towards Attock. On the way, he stopped close to the modern town of Abbotabad, where another community of Pathāns lived. These Pathāns blocked his way. Hari Singh Nalwa wanted to reach Attock swiftly, without fighting this second group of Pathāns in Abbotabad. Therefore, he asked them for their conditions for clearing his way and allowing him to proceed further towards Attock.
But the Pathāns replied, "Yes, we do have some conditions. But we will decide among ourselves and will let you know by tonight. But when the night came, the Pathāns said, "We are still discussing this matter, and will let you know tomorrow." The following day, they gave the same excuse. In this ways, 3 days passed. Hari Singh got worried that if he delayed further, the Pathāns at Attock will attack the Sikh kingdom.
That night, it started raining heavily. Hari Singh Nalwa heared the thumping sounds. Upon enquiry, his attendant said, "Sir, when it rains here, the soil becomes very soggy and muddy. To prevent it from becoming slippery, the Pathāns have to pound it. This is the very special nature of soil of this region. It must be pounded to keep it from becoming slippery."
Hari Singh Nalwa thought, "I think that the Pathāns of this area too are very slippery and they should be pounded!" He immediately ordered his troops to start catching the Pathāns and beat them up. Within a few hours, the Pathān leaders of Abbotabad sent a delegation with apologies. They said that they have no conditions and will allow Hari Singh Nalwas troops a free passage to Attock.
This story demonstrates the truth that some people in this world listen and behave only when they are threatened and beaten up, not when their lapses are forgiven and even if they are given good education. There is a proverb in Hindi, "Laaton ke bhoot baton se nahim maanatey". The fact of life is that forgiveness and Ahiṅsā are ideals that do not always work and we should use our wise judgment in using these ideals rather than following then blindly.
Story: Emperor Akbar asks Hindu Sadhus to become violent
During the Islamic rule, the Muslim ascetics and priests were above the law. They misused this privilege to harass to commit violence against Hindu ascetics and pilgrims. Several Hindus lost their lives due to unprovoked attacks by these fanatical Muslim leaders. A Hindu leader and ascetic Madhusudana Sarasvati complained to Emperor Akbar, who was relatively more tolerant towards the Hindus than many other Muslim kings. Akbar said to the Hindu saint, "Look, I am powerless against these Muslim leaders because they are exempt from any punishment by law. But, you too can create a group of Hindu ascetics who can bear arms and defend the Hindus against attacks by these fanatics."
Madhusudana Sarasvati took the advice of the Emperor to his heart. He started the Naga Sadhu order of Hindu ascetics. In those days, only Brahmanas and other privileged Hindus could become ascetics. But Madhusudana Sarasvati allowed every Hindu to join the order of Naga Sadhus. He also started other orders of Sadhus for Hindu women. Very soon, the Naga Sadhus started training centers for military training. After a few years, whenever a band of Muslim fanatics would attack unarmed Hindu pilgrims, priests of Sadhus, the Naga Sadhus rushed to defend the Hindus and beat back the attackers. In this way, the advice of Emperor Akbar and the foresight of Madhusudana Sarasvati saved many Hindus from getting killed by fanatical Muslim attackers.
Hindu Prayer for Love, Peace and Friendship
May the Heavens grant us Peace, May the Skies grant us Peace
May the Earth grant us Peace.
May we get Peace from the Waters, Peace from our grains, Peace from the wild Plants.
May all the wise men generate Peace, May the Scriptural teachings promote Peace.
May everything in this world grant me Peace, May Peace give me Peace.
And may that great and true Peace abide in me. O Supreme Lord, Make me firm and resolute like Thee.
Bless that all may look on me with a friendly eye.
And I look on others likewise. May we experience complete harmony among us.
In May 2001, US Navy Seals stealthily entered a house in the city of Abbotabad in Pakistan and located the wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden from his bedroom. They shot him in the eye and killed him, and then dumped his body in the ocean. Several people thought that instead of killing him point-blank, he should have been disabled by shots to his leg. Then, he should have been brought to the United States and tried under the court of law. Do you agree or disagree? Do you think that the United States should have followed the principles of Ahiṅsā and Śanti and should have prosecuted him under their legal system?
Notes & References
- Calamities are the acts of God.
- Delusion means moha.
- Nātidvishashtikā of Sundara Pandya, verse 49
- He lived in 3rd cent. BCE.
- See also Sage Manus Code of Dharma 7.198-200
- Guru Gobind Singh in the Zafarnāma, an epistle written to the Moghul Emperor Aurangzeb.
- This was the practice of Sāma.
- This was also Sāma practice.
- This was the practice of Dāna.
- He was the congenitally blind father of Duryodhana.
- This was the practice of Danda.
- This was the Danda practice.
- Mahābhārata 12.109.28
- Sage Manu's Code of Dharma 8.351
- Sage Manu's Code of Dharma 8.350
- They are also called as Ātatāyis.
- Manusmṛti, Sage Manu's Code of Dharma 7-90-93
- Gitā 2.31-32
- Gitā 2.38
- It means that keep Me in your heart even when you fight in the battlefield.
- Gitā 8.7
- Sage Parāshara's Code of Dharma 3.32
- Sage Parashara's Code of Dharma 3.38
- It means the people which deserve to be thrashed do not come to terms with mere talks.
- Śukla Yajurveda 36.17
- Śukla Yajurveda 36.18